Jim and Susan Hill’s millionaire Grand Arch will take on a salty field of turf specialists as he looks to defend his title on Saturday in the 32nd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.
Pace Scenario – Slow
Speed: #7 King Kreesa
Stalkers: #1 Reporting Star, #2 Blacktype, #5 Grand Arch, #6 Tourist, #9 Force the Pass, #10 Ring Weekend
Closers: #3 A Lot, #4 Takeover Target,
This has a chance of being a very slow pace…especially if the turf is soft or yielding. With rainy weather in the forecast that could be a reality, and I don’t see many in here that can change tactics and go to the front with King Kreesa. Look for a tightly bunched group up the back side, and a blanket finish in the end.
Top Pick: #4 Takeover Target
You can’t go against Chad Brown on the turf in a stakes race at Saratoga right now! Actually it’s unwise to go against him no matter what the surface might be. This horse has ran very well over a soft or yielding turf course which will be important here considering the weather forecast. Two races back he was able to defeat Ring Weekend and Grand Arch at Pimlico in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes over a good track running his record to 3 for 4 on off tracks. Last time out he was somewhat of a no-show though so he’ll need to rebound to get the job done against this tough field.
Other Likely Winners: #5 Grand Arch, #6 Tourist, #10 Ring Weekend
Certainly don’t want to ever doubt the defending champion of this race, but his races in 2016 haven’t been great. Ring Weekend was able to finish ahead of him last time out as well as my top pick Takeover Target. If Ring Weekend can run back to his big Kilroe Mile performance at Santa Anita the rest of these could be in big trouble. Tourist rounds out my likely winners category based on his ultra consistent races. He’s been a tough luck loser a few too many times though for me to make him my top pick, but maybe today will be the day he breaks through.
Exotic Plays: #2 Blacktype, #7 King Kreesa, #9 Force the Pass
Blacktype comes into the race off a nice win at Monmouth Park on Haskell Day where the track was wet…which could be a HUGE factor as rain is in the forecast at Saratoga all weekend long. Maybe this horse loves the soft going. King Kreesa is a tough New York bred that could have a big pace advantage as he might end up being the lone speed in the race. Force the Pass is a consistent runner who is always a very solid option to play underneath.
Party Crashers: #3 A Lot
He will qualify as the “other Chad Brown” which is always very dangerous…especially at Saratoga. It’s interesting that Chad Brown got this horse from Bill Mott, and it’s also interesting that Brown tried to run him short in his last two starts. That experiment had mixed results, but now he’ll stretch him back out to a mile today. The mile distance is something this horse is familiar with, and has hit he board in five of six races going this long. Intersting entry, and notice that he picks up Javier Castellano to ride.
Throw Outs: #1 Reporting Star
That’s right…only ONE throw out in this race which shows you just how close of a race we are looking at here. Even Reporting Star is not without a chance, but I had to throw out someone.
Grand Arch has shown a penchant for the Saratoga grass in the last two editions of the one-mile Fourstardave, which has been awarded Grade 1 status for the first time this year.
The Brian Lynch trainee turned in a close runner-up effort in his Spa unveiling, finishing a neck behind Seek Again in 2014. Last summer, Grand Arch turned the tables on his rivals with a neck victory over Ironicus and launched into a successful fall campaign that also included a win in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and a gutsy third-place finish to Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile to close out his 6-year-old season.
“He’s never run bad at Saratoga so we’re hoping he gives us a repeat performance,” Lynch said “There’s the old saying ‘horses for courses’ and it seems like he likes this one.”
Returning as a 7-year-old, Grand Arch finished third in a blanket finish behind Takeover Target and Ring Weekend in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico Race Course on May 21 before checking in a dull sixth in his most recent race, the Grade 3 Poker on June 18 at Belmont Park.
“I gave him a little bit of a freshener off that race because it wasn’t one of his better performances,” said Lynch. “But he’s never really run good in those one-turn mile races at Belmont. We gave him a little bit of time and hopefully we’ve got him back on the right track. He seems like he’s in good order going into Saturday.”
Grand Arch, who boasts a 7-6-8 record from 26 starts and earnings of over $1.8 million, has drawn post 5 and will be ridden by regular jockey Luis Saez.
Chad Brown will be represented by stakes winners Takeover Target and A Lot as he pursues his first training victory in the Fourstardave.
Dixie winner Takeover Target, who took last year’s Grade 2 Hall of Fame by a half-length over A Lot, will look to rebound from his fourth-place finish in the Poker last time out. Manny Franco picks up the mount aboard Takeover Target, who will break from post 4.
A Lot won the Elusive Quality in April, his first start since transferring to the Brown barn this spring. The 4-year-old Tapit colt will be ridden for the first time by Javier Castellano from post 3.
Trainer Christophe Clement will send Blacktype, who picked up his first stakes win in the Grade 3 Oceanport on July 31, for Jump Sucker Stable. The French-bred Dunkerque gelding will leave from post 2 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
Tourist will be seeking his first win of the year for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The 5-year-old son of Tiznow most recently finished a half-length behind Midnight Storm in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on June 4 at Santa Anita to earn a field-high 109 Beyer Speed Figure. Joel Rosario will be the irons; the pair will leave from post 6.
Rounding out the field for the Fourstardave are Reporting Star, who will break from the rail with Kendrick Camouche for Merribelle Stable and trainer Elizabeth Voss; fan favorite New York-bred King Kreesa, ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 7 for David Donk; Colts Neck Stable’s 2015 Belmont Derby winner Force the Pass, who has hit the board in all 11 of his career starts and will depart from post 9 with Jose Ortiz aboard for the Alan Goldberg barn; and Graham Motion-trained Ring Weekend, set to make his second start of the year with Hall of Famer John Velazquez from the outside post.
Weekend Hideaway is entered for the main track only.